By Michael Curry
A perennial favorite of lovers of choral music across the globe , the Vienna Boys Choir will give three performances under the auspices of the Virginia Arts Festival on their current 43 concert tour which also includes appearances at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall in New York and Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
The Vienna Boys Choir will perform their highly acclaimed and irresistible program, entitled Christmas in Vienna at venues in Richmond, Norfolk and Williamsburg just in time for the holidays. These performances highlight and shine the spotlight on the signature sounds of the Vienna Boys Choir – treble (boy soprano) and alto voices between the ages of ten and fourteen.
This all new special holiday program features traditional Austrian folk songs, masterpieces from both the classical and popular repertoire and, of course, holiday favorites – hymns and carols which we all know and love. All sung in the enticing Viennese style.
Under the direction of Italian conductor and choir master, Manuel Huber, some of the most beloved of Christmas and Holiday vocal traditions from around the world come to life in this lively program designed to delight audiences of all ages.
Maestro Huber is widely regarded and respected as a vocal coach, choirmaster and educator. Prior to his appointment as Music Director of the Vienna Choir Boys, he made his name directing and guest conducting numerous major youth choruses and orchestras throughout Europe.
SO WHAT MAKES THE VIENNA BOYS CHOIR SO GREAT?
Quite simply, the centuries old traditions of purity of tone and unforgettable beauty. Hey… they have been doing this since 1498 – seriously.
For more than half a millennium, the Vienna Boys Choir has set and maintained the standards of excellence through their extraordinary talents, purity of tone and distinctive charm.
You see, at one point in history, Vienna was actually the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the fifteenth century. Having been a major trading city in earlier centuries, it was Emperor Maximilian I who, by imperial decree in 1498, established the choir as he moved his impressively powerful and wealthy court to Vienna. The choir was to participate and highlight Masses every Sunday and indeed they still do, more than 520 years later! But the function and duties of the Vienna Boys Choir were much more than religious – in fact the choristers don’t even have to declare any kind of religious affiliation these days. The two dozen or so choristers in the original choirs also performed at all official state and government occasions
Then , of course, Baroque Vienna became the undisputed musical capital of the world and indeed still is in many respects. Over the centuries such giants of the classical world as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler and a host of others found inspiration and sustenance in the glorious surroundings of the Imperial Court. Even more fascinating is the fact that the great Romantic composer Robert Schumann was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir as were brothers Franz Josef and Michael Haydn.
Furthermore, several pillars such as Mozart, Gluck and Bruckner and dozens of others wrote pieces especially for the Vienna Boys Choir.
Mention Vienna, one automatically conjures up the sounds and memories of the waltz and the timeless enduring contributions of the Strauss family.
THE CHOIR TODAY
It’s not easy becoming or being a member of the Vienna Boys Choir. Adhering to strict centuries old traditions, the Choir maintains meticulous admittance qualifications and the highest academic and musical standards.
Currently, there are 100 choristers in the “Academy” and they are from 31 different countries. The choristers are split into four different groups, or choirs, of 25 each – harking back to the original size of the choir under Emperor Maximilian. In order to be able to join the choir, the boys must first be accepted into a preparatory school where they learn the rudiments of theory of music, singing by sight (reading), and intense lessons on at least one musical instrument. When they reach the ripe old age of nine, they are tested on their musical abilities and, of course, their vocal quality. At the age of ten, the most talented boys are selected to join the choir and enter the grammar school which serves grades 5 through 8. Academic lessons are taught in small classes and the curriculum also emphasizes all kinds of sports activities as well as attendance at a huge variety of theatrical, operatic and musical experiences in the capital city.
All of the four groups are on tour for almost three months each year. The Choir continues to be an ongoing return favorite on all six continents. The Vienna Boys Choir has made more than 1000 tours to 100 different countries since its first season of touring back in 1926.
Each year, the Vienna Boys Choir which is actually a nonprofit institution, performs to a half a million people. The Vienna Boys Choir enjoys an enduring relationship with the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the legendary Vienna State Opera. The choirs are also leading participants in Children’s Operas as well as world music and crossover projects. The choir has worked with some of the greatest conductors of the past century including Karl Boehm, Zubin Mehta, Ricardo Muti and Sejii Ozawa.
Since the choir’s first recording was issued in 1907 (not a typo!!!) the Vienna Boys Choir has released close to 400 albums.. The Vienna Boys Choir has also been featured in numerous award winning documentary and feature films.
So,.gather your family and friends and become one of the millions worldwide who become instant fund of the Vienna Boys Choir – the oldest and most prestigious of choirs around the globe.
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VIENNA BOYS CHOIR: CHIRSTMAS IN VIENNA
Weds. Dec. 18. 7.30pm. First Baptist Church, Richmond. SOLD OUT
Fri. Dec 20. 7.30pm. Harrison Opera House. Norfolk
Sat. Dec. 21. 7.30pm. Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg.
Tel: 757 282 2822